Building Better Meetings: Designing Content-Rich Events


We live in a content-rich world, so it’s not surprising that people expect their events and conferences to also be content-rich. Unfortunately, having a content-rich event is often interpreted as cramming in as much stuff as possible, to the detriment of the learning experience. If not designed properly, a content-rich event can come across as a confusing and unfocused information dump, or, at worst, a time waste for attendees. Brella found itself tackling this tricky issue when we partnered with MPI-CAC on this year’s edition of their day-long forum, NEXT (Networking, Education, eXperience, and Technology).

Designing a Content-Rich Conference

The most successful content-rich events shape the attendee experience by organically structuring and weaving their mission story throughout all aspects of the event. Based upon our work on last year’s event, we were very familiar with NEXT’s goal of “bringing together meeting planners, event producers, and design and experience gurus, to learn from the leading authorities in areas from planning techniques and strategies, to the latest in cutting-edge tech trends.” In helping with NEXT’18, the MPI-CAC team challenged us to provide media production support that elevated and amplified the forum’s mission.

When designing a content-rich event, we usually start by looking at the event with a curator’s eye for what should and shouldn’t be included. However, in this instance, elements like the event’s location, the speakers, and the vendors were set. As a result, we shifted our focus to framing how the content would be presented. Experience has taught us that no matter how amazing your content is, your approach to presenting it is key to shaping the audience experience. Our approach targeted the display technology, the visual design elements, the space, and the interactive elements.

Using Display Technology

We had a ton of information to convey in the main speaker sessions on the plenary stage. We also wanted to make sure it was delivered in an interesting and informative way. Rather than using a traditional projector setup, we went bold, with stacked outer, inner, and center sets of LED screens.

Our thinking was that this setup would allow us to:

  • Draw attendee focus toward the center of the stage.
  • Run different sponsorship loops on the outer screens, while the center screens featured the forum’s learning content.

To pull off the technical-side, we partnered with our friends at AV Chicago. Since working together at last year’s NEXT, Brella and AV Chicago have developed a fruitful working relationship. For NEXT ’18, AV Chicago really delivered the technical wow (behold the finished beauty below).


Using Design Elements

From a design standpoint, the visual elements we’d developed for last year’s event were strong. However, we knew our display setup demanded something more. We also wanted the visual elements to support a user-friendly experience, so attendees could focus on their learning goals. Our challenge then became to take what we had and inject a new element into the mix.

To that end, we incorporated photographic elements, using slight variations in the PowerPoint templates for the breakout rooms vs. the plenary space. This gave us a compelling refresh with nice visual differentiation, while maintaining a cohesive design aesthetic.

Attention to these content details and coordination continued on-site. We worked closely with MPI-CAC’s senior leadership to ensure any changes at the forum were consistent with the visual design.

Using the Space

The NEXT space was a traditional, one-floor conference space in the Embassy Suites on the Mag Mile. To promote the networking and informal learning sides of the event, we planned out areas in the plenary and pre-function spaces as a way of offering different showcases for guests.

Using Interactive Elements

In further support of NEXT’s mission, we injected some interactive tech fun into the day’s learning, using virtual reality. Brella’s Video team ran “meet the expert” VR demos, which showed meeting planners and event producers how they could incorporate VR into conferences and events. For many participants, the VR sessions were a hands on way to demystify this new tech. Not to mention, it added a nice variety to the learning sessions.

Delivering Results

So, how did NEXT’18 turn out?

Meghan Palm, MPI-CAC NEXT Vice Chair of Logistics, sums it up best: “Brella’s design team brings your event’s story to life, and the on-site staff work seamlessly with all other roles to execute above expectations. Plus, they’re a blast! Looking forward to working with this team again.”

We feel the same! It’s why we love producing content-rich events. The planning. The production. The execution. To quote Hannibal from the A-Team, we love it when a plan comes together.